Because they hold the first presidential primary, New Hampshire residents happily warm themselves in the national footlights every four years. But woe to the politician who decides that he wants to take center stage for himself.
Such is the case with Robert Smith, the state's rough-hewn senior U.S. senator and a staunch conservative who has had the temerity recently to announce that he is thinking about running for president. As a result, he has stirred the wrath, or at least the deep annoyance, of many a usual ally.Smith, who set up his Live Free or Die Political Action Committee last month to explore whether to make his presidential run, is annoyed right back.
"I think it's extremely bizarre, for want of a better word, to say no person from New Hampshire should ever be elected again, after Franklin Pierce, because we have a primary," he said, referring to the 14th president. "The primary has been first and will be first whether or not I run."
The problem, for anyone who has never been lectured long and hard by a New Hampshire resident about the sacred status of the state's first-in-the-nation primary, is this: If Smith runs, other candidates may figure that he is a hometown boy against whom they have no chance, so they may decide to forgo a serious effort in the state.
"Worse yet," warned The Concord Monitor, "other Republicans might seize on the Smith candidacy to encourage their own states to push up their primary dates to compete with New Hampshire."
It may seem a tad early to start worrying about a contest three years off. But several other Republican contenders have already begun making the rounds of party meetings.
"I don't think it's advantageous to have somebody who's such a long shot," said Donna Sytek, speaker of the state house of representatives and a Republican. "It would be different if he were George Bush, but he's not. He's Bob Smith, and we love him."